Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summer Tours Put in Jeopardy

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summer Tours Put in Jeopardy

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alex Lowe

Rob Andrew called into question the future of summer tours in the year of a World Cup after England yesterday named a squad missing a staggering 41 players for the two-Test trip to South Africa.

The issue of Test matches being devalued by weakened teams has been on the International Rugby Board's agenda since at least last year and it will be discussed again at today's executive committee meeting in Dublin.

The problem is all the more acute this year because of the World Cup taking place in September, which squeezes both the end of this season and the start of next.

Wales and Ireland have named shadow squads for their tours of Australia and Argentina respectively to ensure key first-choice players can prepare properly for the World Cup.

England are further affected by the loss of all players from Leicester, Wasps and Bath who are in action in European finals a weekend before the first Test in Bloemfontein on May 26.

Jason Robinson will captain a new-look England squad, which includes seven uncapped players, Newcastle Falcons quartet Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood, Mathew Tait and Jamie Noon and the return to international rugby of Bristol hooker Mark Regan and Saracens prop Kevin Yates.

Former Falcons head coach Andrew, the RFU's elite rugby director, explained England had no alternative and he expects the IRB to act swiftly to deal with the issue.

Andrew said: "You have to look at what a September World Cup means in terms of scheduling. We have been pretty unfortunate in one sense that three teams have got into two European finals on the weekend before the tour goes.

"You also have to consider how short the preparation time is between the end of the tour of South Africa and start of the World Cup training camp, with warm-up games on August 4 and the World Cup starting on September 7.

"The IRB are looking at this window in a pre-World Cup year and whether there should be any touring from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere. It wouldn't surprise me if this was addressed moving forward.

"Opinions are being canvassed at the moment and it is part of the IRB's look at the international tour schedule and the impact it has on a World Cup year, particularly a September World Cup. …

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